The question many people ask is why all this fuss about rubbish and collection of dustbins. The problem is relevantly simple :-
- Lack of space for waste - Domestic waste levels have been increasing by 3% a year and look set to increase if action is not taken to reverse this trend. Costs of landfill, the traditional form of waste disposal, are increasing as the sites become scarcer and existing sites are required to conform to higher standards on waste disposal to prevent pollution leaking into surrounding areas and the environment generally.
To combat this answer is also relevantly simply follow the 3Rs of waste management reduce, reuse and recycle :-
- Reduce - obviously at a national and international level this means getting manufacturers to both use less packaging, as well as make both the packaging and the goods themselves from products which are either recyclable or bio-degradable. Locally too we can help by buying products with less packaging, like loose fruit and veg, only buy what you need; buying concentrated products and refills, like detergent or doorstep deliveries of milk; using your own basket or carrier bag when going shopping; and buying durable items in preference to disposable ones.
- Reuse - this something that we can all do, for example we could re-use carrier bags as bin liners; scrap paper can be used both sides, for children's drawings, shopping lists; re-use containers for storage, like margarine tubs for nails or colouring pencils; buy re-useable products instead of disposable ones, like rechargeable batteries, plastic picnic tableware instead of paper ones; give any unwanted materials suitable for arts and crafts to your local school or playgroup; send unwanted clothing and items to charity shops; home compost if you can or take your garden waste to a Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC).
- Recycle - obviously at a national level to improve things the government of the day should ensure packaging is made of recyclable material and that there are enough recycling plants around the country to recycle all the materials. Locally we can all make a great deal of difference by trying to recycle as much as we possibly can.
For more information on Reduce, Reuse and Recycle see :-
How to recycle - Alternate Weekly Recycling
For nearly ten years Liberal Democrat run Eastleigh Borough Council has with great success had alternate weekly collections and we knew at the start the result would be increased recycling rates, because this form of waste collection is very old news in most of Europe. Extensive studies have proven that limiting the non-recyclable bin space makes people think more carefully about which bin they replace the rubbish in.
Alternate weekly collections are the obvious way to go when introducing a two bin system. Prior to doorstep recycling collections households had one bin which was emptied once a week, with the introduction of a two bin system the rubbish is split between two bins. Therefore an individual bin will take twice as long to fill up, hence collecting non-recyclable rubbish in collected one week and recyclable rubbish the following week. Anything else involves as least three bin collections in a fortnight and increased staff and vehicle costs as a result.
A recent Local Government Association study suggests that councils who have switched from weekly to fortnightly rubbish collections achieve higher recycling rates of 30% average, compared with 23% for those that had not and currently Eastleigh's rate is about 40%. For information about this see these reports :-
- LGA report - Recycling rates rocket by 30% when councils switch to alternate weekly collection
- BBC report - Refuse changes 'boost recycling'
Why recycle ?
The point many people do not realise is why recycle? Well the obvious one has already been mentioned to reduce the amount of rubbish going into landfill because of the lack of space, but there are two other reasons to increase recycling which are equally as essential they are :-
- To decrease raw material use - the Earth is a closed system and so a place of limited resources. This means that no resources are received from the outside so we must recycle everything we can. Recycling is ecologically and economically important, it plays a huge role in preserving the life we lead today. All materials that are essential for everyday life must be recycled, from the air we breathe to the fabric we make our clothes from.
- To decrease power use - as using recycled material uses less energy than using raw material, for example one recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours or 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials. There are numerous such examples in the end the choice is the same recycle or build more power stations with all the negative environmental effects that can have.
For more information on this see :-
What to recycle ?
There are many things that can be recycled. However the provision of recycling plants to process all the materials that can be recycled is at best patchy and in the case of plastic bags almost non-existent in the UK. This lack of recycling facilities clearly hampers what the local authorities such has Eastleigh Borough Council can achieve in the recycling stakes.
However although Eastleigh Borough Council are not able to process all recyclables, such as mixed plastic, they are continually working to find solutions. To this end Eastleigh Borough Council offers a wide selection of recycling opportunities from kerbside collections to an extensive range of bring banks.
To find out more about the range of things that can be recycled in see Eastleigh see :-
What could be done to increase recycling ?
Well the most obvious things to do are increase the range of materials that can be recycled and make it as easy as possible for people to recycle. The main way to make it easy is to have as much doorstep recycling as possible. One of the strange aspects of the doorstep glass collections is that it has increase greatly the amount of glass been recycled but it has had little effect on the amount of glass been collected at the bottle banks. In general good recycling authorities, like Eastleigh, are continually exploring ways to increase the doorstep collection service; however the limit is always the recycling plant facilities.
So how could government help further to increase the range of doorstep recycling ? Well the Government could do two simple things it could :-
- invest in recycling plant - so all areas of the country can recycle more materials like tetra-paks, all types of plastic, all types and forms of paper etc
- introduce packaging taxation - to both reduce packaging in the first place as per Ireland's plastic bag tax and make the packaging which is used either recyclable or bio-degradable.
There is a long way to go to reach the recycling levels of our European neighbours but at least the problem is been more widely discussed and at local government level more councils are taking action to increase recycling rates. The real problem is that for years Conservative and Labour governments alike have refused to tackle the waste stream problem with practical measures. Even after other countries like Germany with their "Grüner Punkt" system in 1991 or Ireland with their Plastic bag tax in 2002 have shown better ways to go, for more information on these systems see :-.
An increase in recycling capacity and an environmental reform of the tax system is what is required yet so far neither Conservative or Labour governments have done this the only the main party proposing these vital changes are the Liberal Democrats.
What are the 'problems' with recycling ?
The alternate weekly collections have been criticised and the three most common complaints are:-
- Rubbish collections are fortnightly only - in actual fact this is completely false each week the council collects rubbish from each household in the borough. The only difference is one week the rubbish that can be recycled is collected and the next week the rubbish that can't be recycled is collected.
- Bin smells - this depends on not on the frequency of collection but on how the rubbish is thrown out. Normal practice that I have followed at home is to rinse all containers and wrap all food/kitchen waste before they go in a bin. If this is not done then the bin will smell even if it was just a week between collections and it will smell even when empty if this is not done. This has always been the case sweet smelling dustbins are not even a thing of the past.
- Vermin - in actual fact this is completely false since the introduction of alternate weekly collections with wheelie bins the numbers of problems with rats and mice reported to the borough council has decreased. Apparently the rats have problems in climbing wheelie bins, opening the lids, getting inside and getting out again. There are of course areas of the country which don't use wheelie bins in which case the problem is not the frequency of collection but the type of bin. Rats are just as able to locate food in one week if left out as they are in two. The obvious answer is to get wheelie bins. Now I know on some housing developments wheelie bins are not possible to use because of the design of the housing but for these small areas there are always alternatives, like large trade waste style bins outside blocks of flats.
The other complaint that also comes is that elderly and disabled people cannot wheel the wheelie bins out each week, this is true, and this is why Eastleigh Borough Council has the 'Assisted Lift Service' to help people that need it. For more detail on the general service and the Assisted Lift Service see :-
In our modern consumer society that produces and uses many thousands of products everyday it is inevitable that millions of tonnes of rubbish are produced at the end of the product life cycle. On this small island of ours there is also limited space we can dump this rubbish. Therefore the only way we can go is to recycle so I fully support any measure that increases this rate of collection both at a local, national and international level.